Albums

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French Music - Released October 19, 2009 | Naive

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Victoire de la musique - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection Les Inrocks
Hailed as the wunderkind of a new generation of French songwriters, Benjamin Biolay has often divided opinion, as his undeniable talents are not always exempt from narcissism. His sprawling double-album La Superbe will provide both admirers and critics with plenty of ammunition. While many contemporary French artists have unabashedly attempted to present themselves as the natural heir to Serge Gainsbourg, Biolay is arguably the strongest contender to the throne. He is a consummate master of the sultry boy/girl dialogue against an ostinato motif of swirling strings that Gainsbourg patented in the '60s, and that since the '90s has seemingly become the Holy Grail of a hefty chuck of the alternative scene (Pulp, Divine Comedy, Tindersticks, Blur, Portishead, Placebo, Suede, etc.). Nowhere is this more evident in La Superbe than in "Brandt Rhapsodie," where Biolay and Jeanne Cherhal act out an entire French film of the "couple conversation" genre inside of a five-minute pop song, with results that are -- much like those films -- as seductive as they can be infuriating. The same applies for much of this album. Biolay is clearly at the top of his game as a composer and arranger, and indeed La Superbe sounds like the ultimate decalogue of French sensuality, but there is a limit as to how many long-winded, cinematic, spoken monologues on sex, the futility of life, and languid bitterness a record can hold. This ambitious but definitely self-indulgent project plays almost like a suite and can too easily become a sensuous sonic blur, one where it becomes hard to discern individually memorable songs. It should be noted, however, that La Superbe was greeted with rave reviews in France, many judging it to be Biolay's masterpiece. Still, in spite of its impeccable realization, one cannot help but to recommend the perfect pop conciseness of early Biolay albums, such as Rose Kennedy or L'Origine, to the lush abandon and excess of La Superbe. ~ Mariano Prunes
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French Music - Released June 21, 2010 | Naive

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Victoire de la musique - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection Les Inrocks
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French Music - Released March 26, 2012 | Naive

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks - Qobuzissime - Hi-Res Audio
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French Music - Released January 4, 2010 | Columbia

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Sélection Prix Constantin - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Released six years after his debut, Portrait du Jeune Homme en Artiste, La Reproduction is the long-awaited sophomore album from French singer/songwriter Arnaud Fleurent-Dider. A highly personal collection of nostalgia-based songs, the former Notre Dame frontman's 2010 LP includes the singles "Je Vais au Cinema" and "France Culture." ~ Jon O'Brien
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French Music - Released March 22, 2010 | Parlophone France

Distinctions 3F de Télérama - 4 étoiles Rock and Folk - Sélection Les Inrocks
The English-speaking world may only remember Françoise Hardy as a '60s icon, but in France, she is rightly considered a major artist. The truth is that in the course of a 48-year career, Hardy has released 26 albums, almost invariably excellent. La Pluie Sans Parapluie is her first collection of original material in six years, a period the famously reclusive Hardy spent in putting together a duets album, and writing a very successful autobiography. Compared to 2004's elegiac Tant de Belles Choses, La Pluie Sans Parapluie is a much sunnier album, one that immediately brings to mind the lush yet intimate pop of her early-'70s work, such as Message Personnel and Et Si Je M'en Vais Avant Toi. "Sunnier," however, is an adjective that can only be used in comparison, as Hardy's entire oeuvre is the very definition of nocturnal, embodied in her dreamy hush of a voice against velvety arrangements. In this context, it only means that a few songs, such as the opener "Noir su Blanc" or "Champ d'Honneur," are driven by a typical rhythm track of drums and bass, rather than by piano or strings. Hardy writes the majority of the texts, while longtime collaborator Alain Lubrano and a cohort of France's most stylish tunesmiths such as Calogero, Murat, La Grande Sophie, Arthur H, or Pascale Daniel, as well as Germany's Fouxi and England's Ben Christophers, contribute fitting soundtracks to her catalog of longing, regret, and sensuous abandon. A particularly inspired second half includes gems such as "Le Temps de la Innocence" or "Mister," both worthy of a place among her late-'60s masterpieces Comment Te Dire Adieu or Ma Jeunesse Fout le Camp. As most Françoise Hardy releases go, La Pluie Sans Parapluie could easily double as a handbook in French elegance, it's got timeless class. ~ Mariano Prunes
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French Music - Released September 12, 2011 | PIAS France

Distinctions 3F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection Les Inrocks
Seemingly rejuvenated by his brand new and much younger backing trio, Breton troubadour Miossec's eighth studio album, Chansons Ordinaires, owes very little to the traditional French song its title suggests. Its lyrics may be inspired by pre-war favorites Berthe Sylva and Maurice Chevallier, but after several albums of Gaellic folk and orchestral pop, the follow-up to 2009's Finisteriens is the most contemporary and alternative record of his 16-year career. "Du Bon Vieux Temps" intersperses its stoner rock riffs borrowed from Queens of the Stone Age's "No-One Knows" with carousel-style interludes before building up to an unsettling, jazz-rock crescendo; "Pour Les Amis" echoes the fervent indie rock of Arcade Fire with its pounding organ chords, driving beats, and garage rock hooks; while "Dramatique" begins with some lo-fi, grungy guitars and twinkling glockenspiels before bursting into life with a grandiose post-rock finale. It's a convincing transition, which makes you wonder why Miossec hasn't pursued such a direction before. His moody tones and cynical outlook on life are still very much in evidence, as shown on the psychedelic, mock-protest song "Protestataire" and the politically charged, avant-garde fuzz-pop of "Pour un Homme Couvert de Femmes." But his melancholic poetic delivery is so much more effective when accompanied by the album's prevalent, reverb-laden Wall of Sound, whether it's the guitar-shredding shoegaze of the My Bloody Valentine-esque "Pleine de Voix," the surging, angular alt rock of "D'un Fait Divers," or the dark "Qui Laisse Des Traces," whose somber, opening piano chords and faint pounding drums eventually give way to an atmospheric outro which sounds like it was recorded during the height of a particularly ferocious storm. The aimless art rock of "D'insomniaque" and the chugging, ghostly blues of "Sympathique" mean the album finishes with a bit of a whimper rather than the bang it deserves, but the consistently strong collection of songs ensures that Chansons Ordinaires is by far the most compelling album Miossec has ever recorded. ~ Jon O'Brien
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French Music - Released March 29, 1994 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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French Music - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal Music Division Barclay

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
This is the Jacques Brel EP morphed into a full-length album. A gorgeous reissue of the 1962 classic, Bourgeois showcases the singer at his finest, with his first set after leaving Philips and signing to the venerable Barclay label. Although there isn't a bonus track to be found, the set is steeped in all those moments that make Brel a pure pleasure to behold. From the opening "Les Bourgeois" to the closing "Rosa," there isn't a moment of lapse, a second of down time. Of all the tracks, though, there are several that stand out among the crowd of well-known chanson. "Les Paumes du Petit Matin" is the essence of melodic swing, while "Zangra" evokes both chuckles and moribund fear with its juxtaposition of an enlisted man hoping to climb the ranks with a single blaze of glory and the cheating women who surround him. "Casse Pompon" continues Brel's common thread of the military, as does "La Statue," which chronicles the story of a young enlisted man who joined up because of the promise of loose women. Rounding up the mix are the eternal crowd favorites "Madeline," "Les Bourgeois," "Bruxelles," and "Le Plat Pays," the latter one of the first songs Brel recorded for Barclay and a stirring tribute to his birthplace. With the simplest of accompaniments, just guitar and organ to cradle his voice, "Le Plat Pays" sings the praises of a gentle life, a quiet life, a rural life, ushering in a vision that was the complete antithesis of what Brel's life in Paris had become. For content and variety, it really doesn't get much better than this, although a little extra bonus material would have been a welcome addition. ~ Amy Hanson
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French Music - Released November 17, 2014 | Mi'ster

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Qobuzissime
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French Music - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal Music Division Barclay

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
Take two 1964 EPs, Brel and L'Age Idiot, and what do you get? Ces Gens-La, a full-length album that brings the two together. This straightforward reissue retains the original set list, yet adds no bonus material, which is a shame. On the upside, though, it's a nifty little package that collects Jacques Brel's mid-decade nuggets. Although the layman will be most familiar with "Jef," "Chanson de Jacky," and "Mathilde," there are other songs that are equally, if not more so, as strong as the "hits." "Ces Gens-Lá" is a perfect example. Accompanied at first by the merest beat of keys on a piano, the song brings Brel's voice completely to the front as it starts a slow stroke before building to pure passion, backed by both strings and brass. It's a beautiful composition in which, in true style, the singer skewers both the family and the Church. And it's moments like these that only enforce the realization that there would only ever be one chansonnier of Brel's caliber. "Grand'mère" and "Fernand," meanwhile, bring a lighthearted touch to the proceedings. So much emphasis in the English-speaking world has been placed on Brel's core "classic songs" that everything else pretty much falls away. And until the reissue push of the late '90s and early 2000s, much that had only been released on vinyl was all but lost. This compilation then, is a vital, vibrant reminder that Brel was far more than just a handful of hits. ~ Amy Hanson
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French Music - Released April 4, 2011 | Wagram Music - Cinq 7

Distinctions Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros - Sélection Prix Constantin
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French Music - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal Music Division Barclay

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Rock and Folk - Hi-Res Audio
It's been six years since Divinidylle, and Vanessa Paradis is making up for lost time with the 22-track Love Songs. The title bears some poignancy -- this is her first offering since splitting from Johnny Depp. (He and their daughter Lily Rose get co-writing credits on the dubwise "New Year.") Benjamin Biolay produced the set, wrote six tunes for it, co-wrote another with Paradis, and performed a duet with her. Biolay may not be the next Serge Gainsbourg, but he is the master's most logical successor in terms of musical sophistication, writing chops, and a willingness to experiment sonically. Among the other songwriters who contributed material are Mathieu Boogaerts, Mickaël Furnon, BB Brunes' Adrien Gallo, Marcel Kanche, and Paradis. Opener "L'au-Delà" is a modern French chanson offered in lilting waltz time; guitars and snare drum move directly at the singer who slips them and lets the lyric guide her delivery. The title track single by Biolay caused a discussion between singer and producer -- being one of his best songs, she wanted him to keep it for himself, but he insisted she record it. It's classic French disco, complete with big bassline, spacy strings, Star Wars battle synths, organic and synthetic percussion, wah-wah guitars, and an infectious, hooky, vocal chorus. Paradis' voice, usually wispy and slight, digs into the lyric with force and delight. "Les Espaces et les Sentiments" is funky pop, where the singer struts atop the bassline, synth pulse, and percussion, and places them in service of her sultry delivery. "Tu pars Comme on Revient," by Biolay, brings the classic age of French chanson to the indie pop era with a flourish, yet it took this singer to pull it off. "The Dark It Comes" is a duet with ex-Libertines' Carl Barat; it's a twisted murder ballad whose narrative stands in sharp contrast to its lush musical arrangement. The tango-gypsy fusion in "Le Rempart" is clever and convincing, as is "Sombreros," where reggae meets cumbia. "Mi Amor" is Phil Spector rock & roll with 21st century production featuring a dirty bassline vamp and blissed-out guitars in the bridge. It highlights Paradis' sassy, playful phrasing -- she can sing this stuff all day and always sound convincing. She lends a wistful poignancy to her reading of Jacques Brel's classic "La Chanson des Vieux Cons," which Biolay illustrates dramatically with a restrained operatic backing choir, organ, and piano. His duet with her on "Les Roses Roses" owes as much to early rock & roll as it does to the breezy sophisti-pop Biolay is famous for. As a result of this collaboration, Love Songs is Paradis' most heterogeneous album musically -- though that is admittedly subtle at first. While Biolay's importance cannot be overstated, this is the very first Paradis record where she sounds like a full partner with her producer rather than the singer he illuminates. While she doesn't leave pop behind here, she pushes its envelope -- and her own -- attaining a diversity that we couldn't have imagined from her previously. ~ Thom Jurek
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French Rock - Released February 28, 2002 | Indochine Records

Distinctions Victoire de la musique - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Released to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their triumphant 2002 comeback, Paradize + 10 is a two-CD special edition of French new wave stalwarts Indochine's ninth studio album. Written off as has-beens before its release, the ever-changing Parisian outfit instead went on to achieve the biggest success of its career, selling over a million copies and scoring its first number one single in 15 years. A decade on and it still seems remarkable that such a dark and brooding record managed to restore them to their former glories. From the distorted post-punk of "Popstitute" to the My Bloody Valentine-esque shoegaze of "Dunkerque" to the gothic industrial rock of the opening title track, it's an album that screams cult hit rather than multi-platinum chart-topper. Other than the dreadful tinny piano-led chanson of "Un Singe en Hiver," it's held up pretty well, particularly the more melodic New Order-inspired moments ("Mao Boy!" "Le Manoir"), but it's the second disc of "odds and sods" that will provide the most intrigue for their loyal fan base. As you'd expect, the 11 remixes range from the reductive (a misjudged chamber folk reworking of "Comateen") to the inessential (the utterly pointless Bootleg Indochine vs. Cassius mix of "Punker") to the rather impressive, particularly Tricky's claustrophobic take on Melissa Auf der Mar duet "Le Grand Secret" and Curve's French Kiks Mix of "Marilyn," which turns the Muse-esque glam-tinged tribute to Manson into a turbocharged Chemical Brothers-style knob-twiddling anthem. The two B-sides included, the aggressive space rock instrumental "Glory Hole" and Depeche Mode pastiche "Le Doigt sur Ton Etoile," are equally hit and miss, ensuring that while new converts should enjoy discovering the original album, the package as a whole is only likely to appeal to Indochine completists. ~ Jon O'Brien
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French Music - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal Music Division Barclay

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
A jumbled up reissue of the 1968 original J'Arrive, which arrived at a time when Jacques Brel had pretty much receded into the background, having retired in 1967 as a full-time chansonier. But that's not to say that he wasn't writing spectacular songs -- he was. After the smashing successes of the earlier "Ne Me Quitte Pas," "Les Bourgeois," and "Chanson de Jacky," however, these later, less orchestrated compositions have become lost within the canon. With a set split between the two quintessential Brel styles -- peppy chanson and introspective ballad -- there's a little something here for everyone. "Regarde Bien Petit" is stunning, sweeping and delightfully punctuated with Midsummer Night's Dream touches, as is "En Enfant," leaving the upbeat "Vesoul" and "Comment Tuer L'Amant de Sa Femme Quand On Ete Eleve Comme Moi Dans la Tradition" to balance nicely. Fans of Marc Almond's brilliant renditions of Brel's best, meanwhile, will recognize and delight in "J'Arrive" and "L'Eclusier." While bonus tracks have been tacked on to nearly all Brel reissues thus far, the real gems in this incarnation are two cuts from Brel's film work. The first, "L'Enfance," comes from the 1973 film Le Far-West. A French/Belgian production, the film follows Brel in the guise of a cowboy on a journey through modern America's West as he tries and succeeds in building a utopian Old West town. The second bonus track comes from the cast LP of 1968's L'Homme de la Mancha, with Brel's powerful re-tooling of Don Quixote, staged at Paris' Theatre des Champs-Elysees. "La Quete," known to English-speakers as "The Impossible Dream," is by far one of Brel's finest and most stirringly passionate performances ever. Sung solo, the emotion that Brel imparts through this performance would be hard pressed to be duplicated by any one, in any language. ~ Amy Hanson
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French Music - Released January 1, 1998 | Universal Music Division Barclay

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
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French Music - Released March 26, 2012 | Wagram Music - Cinq 7

Hi-Res Distinctions 5/6 de Magic - Hi-Res Audio
After recording 2009's electronica-based La Musique in a small studio in his kitchen, French singer/songwriter Dominique A opts for a more expansive approach for his ninth studio album, Vers les Lueurs, with the recruitment of a full live band and a woodwind quintet. Inspired by the neo-Americana of Midlake, the nouvelle chansons of Jean-Louis Murat, and the melancholic folk of Nick Drake, its 13 tracks include the lead single "Rendez-Nous la Lumière." ~ Jon O'Brien
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French Music - Released April 1, 2013 | Jive Epic

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Hi-Res Audio
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French Music - Released October 17, 2011 | Columbia

Distinctions Victoire de la musique - 3 étoiles Technikart
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French Music - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal Music Division Barclay

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
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French Music - Released March 24, 2010 | Jive Epic

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Rock and Folk - Sélection Prix Constantin
While France is no exception to the craze for music reality shows inspired by American Idol, the end results are sometimes unexpectedly ambitious. Olivia Ruiz, for one, went on to become one of the leading names of the new generation of French female singer/songwriters. Camélia Jordana, who controversially lost the 2009 edition of Nouvelle Star, is clearly hoping to do the same. She sure has started on the right foot with Camélia Jordana, her eponymously titled debut album. To be sure, at only 17 she is still searching for an identity, both personally and musically, but her efforts not to be pigeonholed are much in evidence. First of all, there is little on this album that can be associated with the schmaltzapalooza that music reality shows usually deliver. If anything, Jordana's songs are much closer in sound and spirit (although not quite there in terms of quality) to contemporary female artists such as Neko Case, Regina Spektor, Joanna Newsom, and Keren Ann -- hardly trite commercial acts, in other words. Secondly, she is also intent on separating herself from other French singers by relying on new composers such as Babx and AbEL K1, rather than on proven hitmakers. All contributed tailor-made songs for Jordana, with the plausible intent of building an image for the young singer. It is a bit of a trial-and-error game, with character stories ranking slightly below semi-autobiographical narratives such as "Lettera," a less than flattering portrait of her reality show experience. The focal point of the album is naturally Jordana's voice, always charming and bent on probing expressive nuances rather than overstating the obvious. A pleasant surprise that could very well bloom into a distinguished member of France's new chanson. ~ Mariano Prunes

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French Music in the magazine